Playoff Predictions: PBP Roundtable

The Pit Box Press writing staff assembled to give their playoff picks through each round and naming their pick for the 2022 Cup Championship:

Round of 16:

Walker (@Walker_Skeeter):

1) Denny Hamlin

2) Kyle Larson

3) Kyle Busch

4) Chase Elliott

5) Joey Logano

6) Ryan Blaney

7) Kevin Harvick

8) Alex Bowman

9) Martin Truex Jr.

10) Christopher Bell

11) William Byron

12) Tyler Reddick – I think he points his way in. Not sure if RCR has the cars for him to pick up a win, but he’s shown real consistency and I expect him to make it to the dance as the last winless driver.

13) Austin Cindric – I think he wins a road course or two – even if not, I’d anticipate him pointing his way in with the kind of support he’s likely to get from Penske

14) Chase Briscoe – I think he steals a road course win at some point, just like he almost did at Indy last year.

15) Bubba Wallace – He’s my pick to win the 500…I think he’ll ride that one win to a playoff berth.

16) Justin Haley – I think Kaulig is going to surprise people this year. I think Haley is going to pick up a win on a superspeedway at some point. He’s proven to be a very solid restrictor place racer, and Kaulig has shown they can put fast cars together.

Taylor (@Mashtaylor22):

  1. Joey Logano
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Austin Cindric- He ran well in every race he raced last season in the 33 up until things went wrong. 
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Kyle Larson
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. Bubba Wallace
  8. Chase Briscoe
  9. Harrison Burton
  10. Kurt Busch
  11. Denny Hamlin 
  12. Tyler Reddick
  13. Martin Truex Jr
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Kevin Harvick
  16. Brad Keselowski

Grant (@sleepwalker824):

  1. Hamlin
  2. Larson
  3. Truex
  4. Ky Busch
  5. Ku Busch
  6. Byron
  7. Elliott
  8. Logano
  9. Bowman
  10. Blaney
  11. Bell
  12. Reddick
  13. Wallace Jr. 
  1. Cindric- I expect Cindric to be the only rookie to be in the playoff field, despite Haley and Burton having a good chance to shake the field up. Cindric is put into winning equipment right away in his rookie campaign, and as someone who has dominated the Xfinity series before, being one of the first people to win in the new Gen 7 car should be a very reachable goal for the new driver of the legendary Blue Deuce. 
  2. Chris Buescher- Shortly before the playoffs started last season, I was taking a nap before one of the races and I had what must’ve been a melatonin-induced fever dream. In that dream, Chris Buescher was DOMINATING races in the brand new #17 car. After an underwhelming couple of seasons in the Ford, I truly believe that with the help of Brad Kesewoski taking over as part owner of Rousch Fenway Racing (Now RFK Racing), Buescher will have plenty of chances to hit his potential in the sweet Gen 7 car.
  3.   Brad Keselowski- When switching from a team that consistently is in contention to win races and championships every week, to a team that hasn’t won a race since 2017, there will be growing pains. The expectation for RFK Racing should not at all be to get both cars into next years playoffs, however, with a NASCAR legend like Brad Keselowski large and in charge, RFK Racing could have instant success in its first season and reach their playoff goals. 

Notable Drivers left out:

All of Stewart-Haas

Austin Dillion

Daniel Suarez

Justin Haley

Harrison Burton

Ross Chastain

Although I’m sure the Gen 7 car is going to be way better for Ford than the last runnings of the Gen 6 car were, I simply don’t see any room for any of the four Stewart-Haas teammates, including Kevin Harvick and Chase Briscoe, to make it into such a tight playoff field. I expect both Briscoe and Custer to improve off of their 2021 campaigns, but ultimately fall short of any wins or consistent enough finishes to get into the playoff field. As for Kevin “Happy” Harvick, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue to struggle in his twilight years with all the hungry drivers on the most level playing field that NASCAR has ever had. 

Austin Dillion, Ross Chastain, and Daniel Suarez will compete for wins and perform well in stretches of the upcoming season. However, I think these three drivers will fall just short of a playoff berth in 2021. Dillion should be riding thin ice for his last couple of seasons for his recent playoff success (or lack thereof), whereas Suarez and Chastain being bubble drivers wouldn’t be too shocking considering what both drivers have had to go through with the purchase by Trackhouse racing of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR team. 

Finally, the rookies, Harrison Burton and Justin Haley really showed out in the Xfinity series last season, but even more recently in the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum. The rookies both made the big show that night and have definitely shown that although they might not reach victory lane this upcoming season, both rookies are here to stay and make a name for themselves amongst the top competition in NASCAR. 

Phil (@philenespanol)-

1: Larson

2: Elliott

3 Hamlin

4: Kyle Busch

5: Bowman

6: Truex

7: Harvick

8: Wallace

9: Kurt Busch

10: Logano

11: Reddick

12: Almirola

13: Byron

14: Haley

15: Chastain

16: Suarez

I know that seeing both of the 23XI & Trackhouse entries in the playoffs might be a bit odd, but I expect a big jump for both teams as they welcome new teammates and team members to improve on 2021. The usual suspects at the beginning, and Reddick gets his first win. Haley points his way in.


Garrett (
@dic_banjo9):

1. Kyle Busch

2. Larson

3. Elliott

4. Byron

5. Blaney

6. Hamlin

7. Truex

8. Logano

9. Reddick

10. Harvick

11. Bubba Wallace – I think Bubba proves some people wrong this season and not only wins once but twice. Bubba is really good at short tracks as well as superspeedways, so don’t be surprised if he wins at Martinsville in the spring or at Gateway and Daytona in the fall. 

12. Bell

13. Cindric

14. Dillon – Austin won’t be nearly as good as his teammate, but he’s gonna turn in some impressive performances and win some stages. He may even steal a win, I’m kind of on the fence about him and Bell getting a win, but I’ll give the nod to Bell and look for Austin to get in on stage wins and consistency.

15. Kurt Busch – Kurt will be oh so consistent, but I think he needs some time to wrap his head around the new car and being with a new team and manufacturer. He’ll get in the show, but solely on points, being one of the most consistent guys in the field.

16. Bowman – You may be asking, why do you have Bowman so low? Well, I honestly think we will have 13 winners in the playoffs this year and three open spots, and if you look at my forecast for Hendrick, I predicted that Bowman and Crew Chief Greg Ives would be the one team who would struggle with the new car. I stand by that.

Last three out:

Suarez – I think Trackhouse takes a small step forward, but consistency has always been a bit of an issue for Suarez.

Haley – He will be the equivalent of Kasey Kahne in 2004. He’ll run upfront, maybe get a top-five or two, but ultimately, he’ll come up just short.

Briscoe – I don’t quite think SHR is going to be the force it was earlier in the decade. Briscoe will be better, but not a playoff contender.

Gi (@basicallygi):

1) Kyle Larson 

2) Denny Hamlin 

3) Chase Elliott 

4) Ryan Blaney 

5) Kyle Busch 

6) Joey Logano 

7) Martin Truex Jr. 

8) Alex Bowman 

9) William Byron 

10) Christopher Bell – I think he will more than likely point his way in, and if does get a win it will be by chance and not by skill 

11) Austin Cindric – I think Cindric will definitely earn a win and it will be at a road course 

12) Chase Briscoe – the same reasoning I had for Cindric also applies to Briscoe. All three of his top-ten finishes last year came at road courses, and I think he is poised to get his first win at one of the road courses on the schedule this season, more than likely at Indinapilous 

13) Bubba Wallace – I have a strong feeling about Bubba winning the Daytona 500 this year, and even if that doesn’t happen I still believe he has a chance to win at a road course 

14) Justin Haley – I sincerely believe that Kaulig is going to be extremely successful this year, especially at the road courses and superspeedways as they have shown in the past. Justin has the potential to win, more than likely on a superspeedway, but could also very well point his way in on consistency.

15) Tyler Reddick – I believe he as well as his teammate will both point their way in, but I think Reddick has a fairer shot at actually securing himself a spot in the Round of 16 with a win

16) Austin Dillion – he earns the final spot based on consistency and pointing his way in

Francisco (@cisco_1213):

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Martin Truex, Jr.
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Kyle Busch
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. William Byron
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Joey Logano
  10. Austin Cindric- He showed a lot of speed on road courses, battling with road course King Chase Elliott for a while. He proved he belongs in a Cup car after the 2020 Xfinity title and backed it up over last year. I am very confident he can win at least on a road course
  11.  Tyler Reddick- Since the new car is so much more of an equalizer than I had anticipated, I am almost 100% certain Reddick makes it in with a win. He’s shown speed at many of the more difficult race tracks and likely could have won the Clash in LA had it not been for a mechanical issue.
  12.  Chase Briscoe- After nearly winning his home race in a controversial action, Briscoe is one of the people in the field most hungry for a win. 3 top tens in a relatively slow Stewart-Haas Ford in his rookie year is pretty impressive, and with practice and qualifying back it can help a younger guy like Chase out a ton.
  13.  Bubba Wallace- After finally proving he can win at the Cup level last year, Wallace and 23XI should be contending for top tens, and sometimes top fives, every week. If all goes well, Wallace may even have a multi-win season this year and could make a deep playoff run
  14.  Kurt Busch
  15.  Kevin Harvick
  16.  Daniel Suarez- Some may call me biased (I totally am) but Trackhouse Racing’s speed at the Clash Heats was promising. Though with how close the field is, I am somewhat confident that a few other drivers could take this spot instead. I think it’ll be a points battle that’ll have some at the edge of their seats.

Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn):

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Alex Bowman
  8. Christopher Bell
  9. Martin Truex Jr.
  10. Bubba Wallace
  11. Kurt Busch
  12. Austin Cindric
  13. Justin Haley
  14. Kevin Harvick
  15. Daniel Suàrez
  16. William Byron

Round of 12:

Walker (@Walker_Skeeter):

1) Hamlin

2) Larson

3) Busch

4) Elliott

5) Logano

6) Blaney.

7) Harvick

8) Bowman

9) Truex Jr.

10) Bell

11) Reddick – Again, consistency is key. I think he gets it done by keeping himself out of trouble and running clean.

12) Haley – I think he squeaks through to the round of 12 with a little help from others stumbling

Taylor (@Mashtaylor22):

  1. Logano
  2. Hamlin
  3. Larson
  4. Bowman
  5. Cindric
  6. Ky Busch
  7. Briscoe
  8. Truex Jr
  9. Keselowski
  10. Elliott
  11. Blaney
  12. Burton

Grant (@sleepwalker824):

1.Larson

2.Hamlin

3.Kurt Busch

4. Martin Truex Jr. 

5. Byron

6. Logano

7. Blaney

8. Bowman

9. Elliott

10. Bell

11. Reddick

12. Kyle Busch

The risers of the first three races, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, and Tyler Reddic are going to show out and come out roaring in the first part of the playoffs. The biggest fallers will be Kyle Busch and Austin Cindric. With the playoff field being so close, Perfect races are needed by almost every driver and I don’t believe Busch will be perfect in the first three.

Phil (@philenespanol)-

1: Larson

2: Hamlin

3: Elliott

4: Logano

5: Ky Busch

6: Kurt Busch

7: Truex Jr

8: Bowman

9: Byron

10: Harvick

11: Reddick

12: Wallace

Garrett (@dic_banjo9):

1. Kyle Busch

2. Larson 

3. Hamlin – Will get a win at one of the first three tracks of the playoffs. That’s almost a guarantee. Hamlin will have been mediocre at best to this point in the year, but the first round has always belonged to him it seems, especially Darlington. He’s also always good at Bristol most years. 

4. Elliott

5. Byron

6. Reddick – Reddick continues to roll through the playoffs and puts himself solidly in the Round of 12 with great finishes at Kansas and Bristol.

7. Truex

8. Blaney – He always seems to struggle in the playoffs opening round for whatever reason. He will likely still struggle this time around, but the playoff points he’ll build up through the regular season will pretty much lock him in. 

9. Logano – This is where he’ll begin to falter, but like his teammate, he’ll have playoff points to cushion the fall.

10. Bell

11. Bowman

12. Kurt Busch

Gi (@basicallygi):

 1) Kyle Larson 

2) Denny Hamlin 

3) Chase Elliott

4) Ryan Blaney 

5) Kyle Busch 

6) Joey Logano 

7) William Byron 

8) Alex Bowman 

9) Tyler Reddick – Reddick has proven to be one of the most consistent drivers in the field the last couple of years and has rapidly improved in his Cup Series career as a driver, and I think will at least make it to the next round without any problems 

10) Christopher Bell *

11) Austin DIllion *

12) Justin Haley – I think Haley earns the last spot in this round just by a fraction of a few points, based on his consistency 

* These two-point their way in 

Francisco (@cisco_1213):

  1. Kyle Larson 
  2. Martin Truex, Jr.
  3. Denny Hamlin 
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Ryan Blaney
  6. Joey Logano
  7. Tyler Reddick
  8. Kyle Busch
  9. Bubba Wallace
  10.  William Byron
  11.  Alex Bowman
  12.  Austin Cindric- I do rate Cindric highly as a driver, as he has proven many times he is very talented, but I believe the rookie growing pains will have him in this round by just a few points.

Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn):

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Alex Bowman
  8. Christopher Bell
  9. Martin Truex Jr.
  10. William Byron
  11. Kurt Busch
  12. Daniel Suàrez

Round of 8:

Walker (@Walker_Skeeter):

Walker: 

1) Hamlin

2) Larson

3) Busch

4) Elliott

5) Logano

6) Bowman

7) Truex Jr.

8) Haley – I think Haley steals a win at Talladega and jumps to the Round of 8!

Taylor (@Mashtaylor22):

  1. Logano
  2. Elliott
  3. Hamlin
  4. Truex Jr.
  5. Bowman
  6. Blaney
  7. Larson
  8. Ky Busch

Grant (@sleepwalker824):

1.Larson

2.Hamlin

3.Kurt Busch

4.Truex Jr. 

5.Blaney

6.Byron

7.Logano

8.Elliott

Although he will have a great season, Christopher Bell will fall just short of beating out Elliot for the final playoff spot. Deciding between Logano, Bell, and Elliot was very tough and could go any way in this scenario. 

Phil (@philenespanol)-

1: Larson

2: Hamlin

3: Elliott

4: Logano

5: Ky Busch

6: Kurt Busch

7: Truex Jr

8: Bowman

Garrett (@dic_banjo9):

1. Larson

2. Elliott – I have one word for this: Roval.

3. Blaney – Blaney will put in a heroic effort at Talladega and score the W. It’ll be a very popular win. 

4. Kyle Busch

5. Hamlin 

6. Byron 

7. Truex

8. Reddick – Reddick will survive Talladega and win a stage or two at Texas, which will keep his breakout season alive.

Gi (@basicallygi):

1) Kyle Larson 

2) Denny Hamlin 

3) Chase Elliott 

4) Ryan Blaney 

5) Joey Logano

6) Kyle Busch 

7) William Byron – Byron proved last year to be unbelievably consistent in his race performances last year, and I think he will get into the round of eight based on this same exact thing in 2022

8) Alex Bowman – I was in a toss-up over who to give this final spot to, but based on the three Cup Series races I attended last year ( Dover, Pocono Double Header: Day One, and Martinsville (Fall)), I learned that if there is truly one thing Bowman is good at, it’s becoming an unexpected winner. I think he will win unexpectedly and make his way into the next round. 

Francisco (@cisco_1213):

  1. Kyle Larson 
  2. Denny Hamlin 
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Tyler Reddick
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Bubba Wallace- I believe this team’s top 20 consistency from last year can translate into top 10 consistency, locking them into the Ro8 on points.
  8.  William Byron

Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn):

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Alex Bowman
  8. Martin Truex Jr.

Championship 4:

Walker (@Walker_Skeeter):

1) Hamlin

2) Larson

3) Busch

4) Elliott

Taylor (@Mashtaylor22):

  1. Logano
  2. Hamlin
  3. Ky Busch
  4. Truex Jr

Grant (@sleepwalker824):

  1. Larson
  2. Hamlin
  3. Truex Jr. 
  4. Byron- On an article, soon to be published on www.pitboxpress.com, I will go into complete detail on William Byron’s OUTSTANDING 2021 regular season and why I’m hopeful it will translate to better playoff success in 2022, but in a few short sentences I can assure that this red-hot #24 is more than capable of a good enough playoff run to get a chance against the three of the best NASCAR drivers in history.

If anybody else is going to have a chance to crack this final four, it would be Kurt Busch. Although I don’t think the newly developed #45 will start out the season near the front, by about halfway through the season until the end, I expect Kurt Busch to put on some of the best driving performances we’ve ever seen in his career. The bar is pretty high to reach for the 2005 NASCAR Cup series champion to perform to such standards, but if anybody can do it, it’s Kurt Busch.

Phil (@philenespanol)-

1: Larson

2: Hamlin

3: Elliott

4: Logano

You know, for a new car there are a lot of similarities to last season. I can’t really explain why, but I feel like luck and consistency as normal will get you into the Championship 4, and these are four of the most consistent in NASCAR.      

Garrett (@dic_banjo9):

1. Larson – Larson will dominate at Vegas, much like he did in the spring of last year, and lock himself in.

2. Elliott – Martinsville is where the 2020 champion will punch his ticket to his third straight Championship Four.

3. Byron – Byron makes the big leap this season, and takes the win at Homestead for the second straight season, but he will have to fend off a hard-charging Tyler Reddick. Don’t be surprised if Reddick gets payback from the Roval a season ago and steals this spot.4. Kyle Busch – Kyle will slip into the Championship Four almost quietly, and honestly, if I’m the other three drivers, a quiet Kyle Busch is a scary Kyle Busch.

Gi (@basicallygi):

1) Kyle Larson*

2) Denny Hamlin* 

3) Chase Elliott – If there is one thing Chase Elliott has proven to us these last two seasons, it’s that he knows how to perform in the playoffs, as he made his way into the final four twice back to back, and even won the championship in 2022. So I had no doubts that he will continue this and make his third final four appearance.

4) Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney had a break-out season last year, and I think he will carry that momentum on into this season, I believe he has the potential to win three races again, and potentially even more. I also think he will remain routinely consistent throughout the season but will have his shortcomings, just barely nabbing the fourth and final spot in the final four

* I don’t think much explanation is needed for either of these two, it is honestly a no brainer to me how and why they would make it to the final four 

Francisco (@cisco_1213):

  1. Larson
  2. Elliott
  3. Hamlin
  4. Blaney

Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn):

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney

Championship Prediction:

Walker (@Walker_Skeeter): Denny Hamlin. It’s time. He’s been too good for too long to keep blowing it at the end. Denny finally breaks through and gets it done.

Taylor (@Mashtaylor22): Joey Logano. It is the year 2022 and since Logano has made the final four every even year since 2014 and it’s not a coincidence that he drove the 20 and the 22 car so it’s the year of Logano so I think he is a 2x champion this year. 

Grant (@sleepwalker824): Martin Truex Jr. It might be more historical for a guy like Denny Hamlin to finally break the curse and win the final race. It may be insane to bet against Kyle Larson dominating the circuit every weekend AGAIN. It could even be something that shakes the very core of NASCAR if a young hot-shot like William Byron steals a title in his fourth season. However, Martin Truex Jr. remembers last season’s finale. Truex Jr. remembers that he had that championship in the bag until a late race caution with less than 30 laps to go, setting up an incredible pit stop for Larson followed by a fantastic restart to match. Truex Jr. always bouncing back and I expect nothing less of him in his 2022 Campaign. 

Phil (@philenespanol)-  Denny Hamlin. Finally breaking that Gen 6 curse, he’ll get over the hump in the new car. You know it’s been eating at him for almost 10 years now. It’s his time, and hopefully a sign of things to come for him in this next half of his career.

Garrett (@dic_banjo9): I can’t believe no one has picked Kyle Busch. I said it in our earlier JGR roundtable, but I 100% believe Rowdy will win this championship. His performance has been down for a couple of years, mostly due to the absence of practice and qualifying but it returns this season. This car also suits him a lot more than the Gen 6 and the 550 HP package is finally gone as well. Kyle Larson will be great, just as he was last season, but if there’s anybody who can beat him, it’s Kyle Busch.  

Gi (@basicallygi): Kyle Larson. It is pretty much an undeniable fact by this point that Kyle Larson is an absolute wheelman. Any vehicle he gets behind, he just seems to adapt to, and I think the the Next Gen Car will be no exception

Francisco (@cisco_1213): Denny Hamlin. Being full-time in the Cup Series since 2006, Denny has always shown he is a championship caliber driver. He’s never had trouble getting to the Championship Four, but unfortunately has never been able to capitalize on the opportunity. Hamlin’s been in this situation enough times to know how to win the thing, and I believe he is either at or just past his prime. The Cup is now or never for Denny.

Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn): Ryan Blaney. Laugh at me in November when I’m wrong, but after last year I just see him being extremely strong in 2022. He’s proven how strong he can be and with the new car putting everyone on a somewhat level playing field, I think he’ll break away from the rest.

Featured photo from Pat Vallely.

Published by Pit Box Press Staff

This article was a collaboration between multiple writers at Pit Box Press.

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